Jamaica Plain Open Studios is coming up fast (September 21, 2013). We’re excited to have a special guest artist presenting a fantastic trunk show in the JP gallery to celebrate. The stunning architectural graphics on Fort Point based artist Nicole Aquillano’s pieces are evocative, inspired,and beautifully simple. We were so happy to be able to talk with Nicole about her work and inspirations and we can’t wait to show her work in the gallery on September 21.
How did you discover your love of ceramics?
I discovered my love for clay in high school, in Crafts class. We had a few hand-building projects which I really enjoyed, after which my teacher set me up on the potter’s wheel, and I never looked back. I bought my own wheel and would spend hours throwing in my bedroom at home, with lots of plastic on the carpet! Then in college I took an intro level clay class and spent all my free time in the studio, I just loved it. At the end of the semester my professor suggested I take the intermediate class…and that went on throughout my whole undergraduate in math and engineering, so I ended up earning a minor in art during undergrad.
It’s clear that your background in civil engineering informs your design – what is it that draws you to architecture and city scapes?
Something about the repetition and structure of buildings and bridges really draws me in. I find stability and comfort in repepetion, since in my engineering mind, it is the path to clarity. I am also drawn to the use of place since it has an inevitable ability to define and connect people. Through the use of specific places from my own memories and experiences, I hope to trigger personal memories in others, as a way to bridge a meaningful relationship.
I recognize the Tobin Bridge as part of your current collection, what are some of the other inspirations that are part of your work right now?
The bridge I use in my work reminds people quite frequently of the Tobin, which I love: that specific places drawn from my memories have the ability to trigger personal memories in others, but it is actually based on an old train bridge near the house I grew up in (the house I repeatedly draw in my work). Growing up, I could hear the train cross the bridge and blow its whistle from my bedroom window (the same window which has the light on in my drawings). For me, the sound of train whistles still triggers memories of my childhood home.
If you could translate one Boston landmark into your work what would it be and why?
I draw an image of the North End quite frequently, since it was the deciding factor in me moving to Boston about 7 years ago. Upon visiting the North End for a job interview, I was reminded so much of Italy, where I had studied for a semester, that I decided I just had to move here! The old staircase leading up to the Summer Street Bridge and the building connector that passes over Melcher Street, in Fort Point, are frequent occurrences in my work. I like to think of all the people who have experienced these unique architecture details over the years. There are so many memories sealed up in these historical structures that surround us everyday.
You have an awesome process page on your site, but what is your day to day life like in the studio now that you create full time?
Surprisingly I only spend about 60% of my time making my work. I spend the rest of my time doing paperwork, applying to shows and sales, actually participating in sales, corresponding with customers, packing work, shipping work, fixing things that break, picking up supplies…the list goes on and on. When you run your own business you are everything: maker, marketing, sales, shipping, maintenance person, etc. But I do always manage to make time for a run everyday, I think taking a break is an important part of staying healthy and sane when your life is devoted to studio work!
Do you hand draw/paint on each of your pieces or do you create a transfer and then glaze?
I hand-inlay each drawing into the clay before it is bisque-fired. I use a knife similar to an exacto knife (it is actually a Dolan knife, my favorite tool) to carve each line into the clay. After I’ve carved in the entire drawing, I put an underglaze over top, let it dry, and wipe away from the surface with a damp sponge. The sponge removes the underglaze from the surface of the piece, but leaves in imbedded in the clay where I had carved in the lines. Then I bisque-fire, and mix and apply a glaze that when applied over the drawing, it brings the underglaze out a little bit and creates a runny effect: which I think is important to help trigger the feeling of a memory.
What are three things that inspire you the most?
Hard Work + Passion. I am amazed at the results which come from a lot of hard work combined with a lot of passion. One of my mentors once told me, if you work hard enough at something, it’s bound to happen. And I truly believe this. If you want something enough, and are willing to work harder than you ever thought possible, it will eventually happen. Whether training for a marathon or trying to make a big career change, I am amazed at the ability of hard-work and passion to get you where you want to go.
Large bodies of water. Especially running by large bodies of water. The solitude of running combined with the vastness of the waterbody are an invitation to let your mind rest. There is something so amazing about being reminded of how small you are in the world…but remembering how much of a difference you can make.
The human need to maintain collections. The main reasons people collect are to remind them of the past and to fill a void, so that the act of collecting is a way to preserve the past and satisfy the longing with which we inhabit the world: driven by a desire to hold onto that which will inevitably be lost.
Growing up, I observed my mother collecting objects that retained memories of her childhood and parents. She would reminisce about the past though these objects quite often. As I grew older, my mother began passing these objects and memories on to me. These objects have become an important part of my life, as reminders of my grandparents and my mother, and their emotional connection to these objects. For both my mother and me, possession of these objects is a link to the past.
Collecting is a way to preserve the past by filling the void left by the inevitable loss associated with life. As an object maker, I pour both my past and present experiences into my work, attempting to preserve my past by retaining my memories within these objects. My memories and experiences are carved onto objects intended to be both used and collected: as a way to facilitate new relationships to fill the void left by that which we will never have again.